4-Star Film Review by David Whetstone, The Journal

A documentary about tenant sheep farmers in Upper Teesdale could be an unlikely hit at film festivals this summer

Sheep on BailA scene from Addicted to Sheep

The Oscars will be doled out in Hollywood this weekend, rewarding the best cinema releases of 2014, but it’s a fair bet none of the judges will have seen a film like Addicted to Sheep.

The feature-length documentary charting a year in the life of the Hutchinson family, hill farmers in Upper Teesdale, had its first cinema screening this week at the Gala in Durham with many who appear in the film seeing it for the first time.

The film shows the beautiful sights and sounds of this upland landscape through the seasons while taking the viewer uncomfortably close to a lot of muck and slop – things the farmers live with every day.

French director Magali Pettier, who grew up on a farm, originally planned to contrast English and French farming families. As she explained in Durham, “financial reasons and time” meant she had to revise her plans, focusing instead on the County Durham family recommended to her by Upper Teesdale Agricultural Support Services.

You sense she recognised the Hutchinsons as cinema gold. In the end she spent four years with Tom, Kay and their three children, Jack, Esme and Hetty, who are now aged 13, 12 and 11 respectively. They are the stars of this film, a close and loving family whose daily routine would make most of us shiver.

We see them up and out in all weathers and at the crack of dawn. We laugh as Hetty – a much younger Hetty – struggles to close barn doors and, as a tethered cow does what cows do, murmurs mournfully that she wishes they’d pick up their own mess.

Read the full review here